Written by Jim Sillars
I am the architect of the ‘Independence in Europe’ policy to which the SNP still sticks, limpet like. First aired by me, as a Labour MP, a few days after being on the losing side of the 1975 EEC referendum. No one understood it. After I joined the SNP, the party eventually adopted the policy in 1987. By then, the idea of Scotland being just like Ireland and Denmark in the EEC had attractive logic. A political bonus was its answer to the unionist gibe of ‘separatist’.
Although now 12 states, little had changed since 1975 to the range of veto powers a member state could wield to defend a vital national interest. The 1970 Werner report on steps to economic and monetary union seemed to have died a death.
But my view began to change. As the EEC enlarged; the veto powers were steadily demolished in step with a vast extension of Commission competence. The ‘independence’ offered by being ‘in Europe,’ was now nothing like that available in 1987.
I knew the claim that states ‘share’ sovereignty was a canard – they transferred it, permanently, to the Brussels institutions: the unelected Commission, the conclaves of COREPER (meetings of ambassadors) where the real bargaining Is done, with its recommendations going to the equally secret Council of Ministers; and ‘though the EU Parliament has elected MEPs, they are not there on a pan-EU basis.PROMOTED STORY
The member states on EU territory, lack the homogeneity to create a genuine European polity, meaning its unelected, secretive character will not change.
Strangely, for a political party that worships the idea of independence, the SNP has never once submitted ‘Independence in Europe’ to any analysis, as if the ‘Europe’ of 1987 was in aspic, when treaty after treaty, right up to and including Lisbon, had changed it fundamentally, and not to the advantage of the sovereignty the party claims it wants.
It is difficult to understand the spell the EU casts upon the SNP, the whole membership, not just the leadership.
Even when EU policy scuppers the intention of the Scottish government it makes no dent in the admiration.
One such example was when the Scottish government wanted to write into a public procurement Bill a condition that any company bidding for a contract had to pay the living wage. But EU rules said no.
Even now, when Michael Barnier is insisting on the virtual continuation of the CFP, there is no fierce Scottish government rebuttal. When fishing is raised, the UK government is the target, charged with getting ready for a ‘sell-out.’ To whom can it sell-out? The EU.
It is like watching someone in a one-sided love affair, so blinded by adoration that no imperfections can be seen of the other.
A good example can be read in Ian Blackford’s wail, in the Sunday Herald, (after 31 March) when he bemoaned the danger Brexit posed to the ‘countless rights we have enjoyed and benefited from along with our EU partners.’ It was tripe, and I told him so.
The only workers’ rights torn to shreds have been in two of those partners, Greece and Portugal, when the EU Troika descended upon them.
Jim Sillars the former SNP leader (Image: GETTY)
The austerity dished out to Spain and Italy was savage. He was also oblivious to the historical fact that the right to paid annual holidays was won in 1938 by the trade union movement in the UK; and that UK paternal, maternity and other rights are at a higher level than the EU minimum.
‘Facts are chiels that winna ding’ (facts cannot be disputed), wrote Robert Burns. He did not anticipate the SNP and Brexit.
But hope beats eternal in that bleeding heart of the SNP. Covid-19 is now a reason for demanding that the transition be extended beyond 31 December with the hope it will go on, and on, and on, and we shall still be under the shield of the Commission and the European Court of Justice – the one in the Viking and Laval judgments that decided capital had supremacy over labour.
That ECJ decision was, of course, correct, as that is precisely what the treaties say.
I hope Johnson keeps up his ‘not listening’ attitude to the SNP and brings Brexit to its finality at the end of the year on WTO rules if that proves necessary.
Far from Covid being a reason to remain locked into the EU, it is only by being out completely that the UK will be able to make full use of the tool of sovereignty to re-construct the economy once the lockdown is over, and the enormous damage is revealed.
Freed from the EU’s myriad of laws and rules drawn from them, and its obsession with one-size-fits-all, we shall not be ham-strung as the remaining member states will be, when imagination, innovation, flexibility, bold new unorthodox policies, will be our way out of the economic crisis.
My dissent from the Euro-fanatic SNP policies, and others, has seen me invited by some members to resign. I have not done so, in the hope that – to borrow an old song – things can only get better.
Jim Sillars is the former deputy leader of the SNP and an Advisory Board member to the Foundation for Independence